Most teens are interested in dating, but not all of them know how to do it. Talking to your teen about what dating means to him, what makes for a healthy relationship, and how to balance love with life can make his dive into the dating scene easier for all of you.
The Best Time to Start Talking About Dating
In our house, our teenager only started dating within the past year. I'm not completely sure if that's because she wasn't ready to or what, but by the time she did start dating, we'd been talking about it for a long time. Since the beginning of middle school, in fact. That's because we wanted to make sure she had a sense of what a healthy relationship looks and feels like before she found herself in one. And since kids develop at such different rates emotionally, there was a good chance she'd have friends who started dating in their late tweens and early teens.
Of course, starting the conversation doesn't mean you're saying it's OK to start dating, and it's a good idea to make that clear from the get-go. Knowing what your rules are around dating can not only make it easier to talk about it, but can even take some pressure off your child. If he's not ready to start dating but is facing peer pressure, he can always fall back on the "blame my parents" excuse.
Keep reading to see what else should enter your dating conversation.
Making Sure You Define "Dating" the Same Way
That excuse won't work, though, if you and your child aren't on the same page as to what dating actually means, so one part of the conversation will have to be about defining your terms. Ask your child what the word means to him because he may not even know. If he doesn't, throw out some ideas for him to think about: Does dating mean having a girlfriend or boyfriend? Is it going out with a group of paired-up kids? Is it the same thing as just hanging out with a specific girl or boy? Are dating and hooking up the same thing?
Let's Talk About Sex
Those are questions that may make both of you uncomfortable, but it's a really important part of the conversation. Not only can you then talk to your child about your dating rules, but it also opens a conversation about sex and sexuality. Although it's likely you've already talked about sex with your teen, when the prospect of dating is staring you all in the face, it's a different conversation.
Now the conversation is less about the mechanics and more about emotions and values. Don't expect your teen knows what your views are about teenagers having sex — tell her. While you're at it, talk to your teen about the emotional involvement that comes with having any form of physical relationship and that dating doesn't automatically mean she has to be seriously physically involved.
Sex Isn't the Only Issue
Actually, you and your child should also talk about the fact that she doesn't have to be seriously involved in any way when she starts dating. LoveIsRespect.org says that a healthy teen relationship comprises two people who respect each other, celebrate in each other's successes, don't expect to spend all of their time with each other, and don't need the other person to "check in" all the time.
Dating Is Exhausting — For Parents!
At the end of the day, it's a lot to take in and talk about, and you haven't even hit the hard part yet — waiting for your teen to come home at the end of the night! Talking about dating is important, but it's also exhausting. Just remember, you don't have to say everything all at once.